Investigations

Driven to suicide by a romance scam

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Yonkers father is dead and his family believes it's all because he was sucked into an international romance and money scheme, causing him to lose everything and even steal from relatives.

"I saw him sitting in a chair with a bullet in his head," Peter Circelli said.

Circelli believes his father, Al, felt he had no way out, committing suicide in the living room of his Yonkers home after realizing a romance to riches fantasy he'd bought into was a scam.

It was only after Peter started going thru his father's belongings that the son discovered his dad's shocking secret, starting with a pile of western union money transfers to the country of Ghana, a notorious location for romance scams.

"They say Ghana, $300. Ghana, $200," he explained. "We've added them all up and they come to the sum of $50,000."

On Circelli's laptop, his son discovered email photos and messages supposedly from a woman calling herself Aisha, who promised to come here and start a new life, giving the divorced retired businessman a future and a fortune.

"She had money in a bank and was going to transfer the money to him," Circelli said.

But first, she claimed she needed money transferred to her in Ghana via someone named Nulu Suleman for expenses. At some point, Al Circelli ran out of his own money, and started taking it from his son.

He took out credit cards in his son's name and got advances. Peter's credit is "above and beyond destroyed."

Peter is a respected small business owner who runs a successful body shop and towing company in Englewood, New Jersey. He owns the home his father lived in, and just discovered his father had stopped making mortgage payments.

"This house is in foreclosure. I'm most likely going to lose this house," he said. "It's destroyed me. It's destroyed my family."

The day Al Circelli killed himself, he thought Aisha would be arriving on a Delta flight. She, of course, never showed up.

"What he did because of something like this, I can't even imagine it," Circelli said.

And in one final bizarre twist on Tuesday, Peter found a message on his dad's laptop from Nulu Suleman saying Aisha, or Shanda, had killed herself -- "blown her head off in Chicago."

"It can't be tracked. These people are like ghosts and the damage these people have caused, they shouldn't be able to cause in other people's lives," Circelli said. "To see him go down like this, to think there are other families who might have to go through something like this, I have to open my mouth. I can't hide no more."

For more information on romance scams originating in Ghana, please visit these websites:

www.romancescam.com/forum

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams

Ghana.USembassy.gov (Information for travelers)

If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com and follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates

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